The CovidTracker App And You


HSE logo; excerpt from letter that the HSE has sent Digital Rights Ireland; tweet from DRI

In the past hour.

The Irish Times has reported that Digital Rights Ireland has received a response from the HSE, following on from the DRI writing to the HSE about its planned contact-tracing app.

The DRI wrote about the HSE’s “heavy obligation” in relation to the app’s privacy and data protection and asked for any documentation pertaining to the app’s Data Protection Impact Assessment to be forwarded to the DRI. The DRI also offered to assist the HSE.

In its response, the HSE said it will publish the app’s Data Protection Impact Assessment when the app is launched.

Jack Horgan-Jones reports:

Antoin O Lachtain, a spokesman for Digital Rights Ireland, told The Irish Times that according to information given to the group by the HSE, “they are planning to build a ‘super-app’ which will be much more comprehensive thant the contact tracing app which was originally discussed”.

…It will also delete all identifiable data from the app once the pandemic is over, the HSE said in its letter. “We are very keen to ensure that the potentially lifesaving app has public support and would welcome your positive input once we publish the relevant documentation and the app,” the HSE wrote in its letter.

Coronavirus: Privacy advocates say HSE planning a ‘super app’ (The Irish Times)

Meanwhile, on Tuesday…

Broadsheet sent a number of questions to the HSE about the Covid-19 contact-tracing app referred to above and HSE Covid-19 Patient Management app, advertised on the Apple Store.

At 4.18pm today, the HSE responded as follows:

As part of the national response to Covid-19, work is underway to develop a new national mobile app for Ireland that will allow citizens to track their symptoms in real-time, and to digitally trace close contacts.

This will assist in national contact tracing efforts in the weeks and months ahead, as we move forward from the containment and mitigation phases of the public health response to Covid-19. The HSE is carrying out final security and product testing of the CovidTracker Ireland App.

The mobile app is being designed as a key element of the next phase of Irish national public health response. The power of the app lies in its capacity to provide early insight into the spread of Covid-19 and in its ability to enable the health services speed up and improve contact tracing.

The CovidTracker Ireland App will:

• help the health service with its efforts in Contact Tracing for people who are confirmed cases

• allow a user to record how well they are feeling, or track their symptoms every day

• provide links to advice if the user has symptoms or is feeling unwell

• give the user up-to-date information about the virus in Ireland

The Irish app will be designed in a way that maximises privacy as well as maximising value for public health. Privacy-by-design is a core principle underpinning the design of the CovidTracker Ireland App – which will operate on a voluntary and fully opt-in basis. The objective is to put in place a single official national Covid-19 mobile phone App for the population.

The CovidTracker Ireland App will be a vital part of our collective efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19, support our goal to flatten the curve, and hasten the easing of restrictions across the country.

Intensive work is underway in the Health Service Executive and across the Department of Health with direct support from the Office of Government Chief Information Officer and other technical expertise across the public service.

The implementation timeline will be determined by the technical progress and the results from the security and product testing that is underway. When it is ready the Department of Health and the HSE will formally launch the app with clear instructions on how to download and use it.

The questions were:

1. Has the HSE responded to Digital Rights Ireland’s recent letter to HSE CEO Paul Reid about its concerns related to the app/s? What is the HSE’s response? Has the HSE taken up DRI’s offer to help?

2. When will the contract tracing app be rolled out? Has the HSE Covid-19 app been officially launched?

3. What is the purpose of the HSE Covid-19 app which appears to ask for symptoms and users’ location? Does the HSE have any more proposed apps related to Covid-19 in the pipeline?

4. What specific data will be gathered from this app/these apps? How exactly will they work?

5. How will the data be stored?

6. Will there be a time-limit on how long the data will be stored?

7. Will the data be shared with anyone else, any other organisation or any other Government department or agency such as An Garda Síochána?

8. Who would be the controllers and processors of the data collected by this app/these apps?

9. We understand that the HSE has been in contact with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner about the contract tracing app. Could the HSE outline the extent of these communications? Did the HSE liaise with the DPC in relation to the HSE Covid-19 app? Did the HSE liaise with any other privacy experts/advocates about the tracing app or any other apps?

10. What evidence does the HSE have that such apps contribute to limiting the spread of Covid-19?

11. How will the HSE ensure the app/apps are proportionate, necessary and in line with GDPR rules?

12. Did the HSE carry out a Data Protection Impact Assessment in respect of the app/s and will this/these be published?

Previously: Track And Trace

Dear Mr Reid…

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9 thoughts on “The CovidTracker App And You

  1. Wry Vita

    Fair enough from DRI. But they’s positioned themselves so badly on this – instead of saying “we’d love to help you make an app that keeps everyone and their data safe”. Techies – devoid of empathy and social skills as usual. Get off your standup desk horse Antoin.

  2. GiggidyGoo

    Ultra positioning of the State to gather more information on the population. Does anyone believe that data will be deleted after Covid 19? More likely it will be sold. outside the state and become the property of some Bilderberger or other. Coveney might be able to shed a light.
    And don’t believe for a moment that your phone isn’t being tracked all of the time. Do you really think a ‘Don’t allow’ button stops Apple and Google tracking your phone? (Location services – triangulation -have been used in criminal cases in the past, with Gardai able to identify location (s) a phone has been in. And those weren’t smartphones either.
    But the inputting of personal information brings it to another level for the boyos.

    1. Cian

      But you’re okay with your tinfoil hat.

      You are mixing up the phone and the phone network. Yes, when your phone is switched on it is constantly in touch with the network to see which phone last is closest to you so you can get the best connection. Yes, the networks keep rhis data and can use triangulation to work out approximately where your phone is. But that is Vodaphone or Three or whoever. Google and Apple don’t have that info.

      If you have GPS enabled then you phone can calculate where you are on earth to a few metres. If you are sharing this then Google knows where you are – this is how Google maps know if there is heavy trafffic on a particular road – all the phones arent moving very fast. If you turn off GPS this stops. Oh, and turn off your Wi-Fi too- Google can work out where you are if you pass a Wi-Fi it recognises.

      1. GiggidyGoo

        Thanks for agreeing with my post. Nice that you agree that tracking is part and parcel of today’s mobile phone world.
        You’re now the proud co-inhabiter of my tin foil hat.
        What you’ve steered away from though are my other observations. As in personal information.

        Like, we all know how the Monologue has been caught out with her PSC card and the information it contains, and where it’s shared.

        Noticeable that you always seem to appear whenever there’s a question of the trustworthiness of the Blueshirts mind you.

        1. Steph Pinker

          .. don’t forget that the GardaÍ have apps on their phones which identify car licence plates, owners’ addresses, make/ model and profession/ job etc… So, even before they stop a driver, they already know all that’s relevant. But, apparently*, the lads and ladies in blue are stopping people and demanding proof of all the above even though it’s evident from their app that the individual driving is an essential service provider, and in some cases have delayed and interrogated said providers from getting to their essential job. The GardaÍ must be absolutely loving their new superpowers.

          * A friend told me; personally, I wouldn’t know.

      2. Robert

        That’s not entirely true. Google and Apple to have some network insight. In principle OSI model separates these layers but there are various ways this information can leak. The network view is more limited, but its a far cry from explicitly “triangulating” these days … modern ONM software is far more fluid than that. Please also consider that in urban environments with higher cell concentration and always on radio as you get in modern packet-data services the picture they see is far more accurate than you could imagine.

Comments are closed.

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